Thursday, April 9, 2009

Our Curriculum - Math

The last few weeks I have had many conversations with other home schooling Moms about plans for next year. Funny how Spring always get us thinking about what we are going to do differently or such during the next school year. Most of us start our school year in the Fall just like the public schools and end it in the late Spring. Some take the Summer off, we on the the other hand tend to do school all year long. We have done unit studies and such during the summer which keeps us busy and somewhat structured. Most of what we Moms discuss is what we are using and if it is working for us and what we like about it. So I thought I would put my thoughts down here on what we have been using and why and if we plan to continue using it. Hopefully this wont bore any readers too much. It is good to actually write this out. I love to read what others think about the different curriculum choices that are out there.

I thought today I would start with Math.

We use Singapore math. (This isn't a surprise to those who read my weekly reports) I haven't used anything else so I didn't choose Singapore based on something else not working for us or for any real specific reason. Before even jumping into a math program, I read a number of books like The Well Trained Mind and seen lots of recommendations from other home schoolers. Most of them raved about Saxon math but listed other options, Singapore being one of them. I looked at Saxon but felt it was too much like math was for me growing up, drills, drills and more drills. My sister-in-law, who also homeschools, had been using Saxon and her kids weren't enjoying it. In fact she ended up taking a number of months off of math as a result. Her kids started to really HATE math. (Another Sister-in-Law using Saxon with her kids loves it and feels like they are getting the best Math base) Knowing my daughter and how she doesn't like to do busy work, I looked into other programs for math. I have heard great things about Math-u-see, this is what my sister-in-law ended up switching to, but wasn't really sold on anyone program and most of them seemed so expensive. I hated to get one and then end up not liking it. Singapore Math is relatively inexpensive and had great reviews, so I thought I would give it a try. I wouldn't be out too much if we ended up not liking it.

When Sophie officially started first grade we got the 1A and 1B workbooks along with the textbooks. (I didn't really do any math with her before this.) This math was very easy for her and we flew through the first few lessons. The novelty wore off and the math got a little harder. She struggled a bit with it. But we continued to plug away at it. I really liked that the lessons seemed to build on each other and each of the concepts was taught in increments. As we have now gone through the 2A and 2B books as well. I have grown to really like the program. They do introduce concepts a bit earlier than in other programs or than I remember learning them, but they are introduced in relation to things already studied, so they don't seem like a big jump. I usually see what direction they are moving and I personally think it is a logical progression. The basic skills are drilled but they are usually practiced in relation to the newer concept. I don't usually worry if Sophie doesn't catch everything the first time through. I know the topic will come up again and again but with a little added difficulty or some sort of twist to it. We have at times added a few drill sheets, usually subtraction, so she can practice a little more on something she struggled with but these have tended to backfire. She really fights doing drills. My husband and I agree that we don't want to push her so hard at math so that she hates it. We want her to enjoy math and feel that she is good at it. She just isn't the type of kid who is willing to do pages and pages of drills, even if they are easy for her. So Singapore has worked for us, for the most part. The lessons are short enough not to kill her and the concepts are taught in a very clear method. The skills are drilled without being drudgery or forced too much.

There have been times when we have had to take a break from our Singapore workbooks. Usually this is because I have pushed Sophie to do drill sheets in addition to her daily exercise. When this happens we still do math but instead we play math games from Family Math, break out Sum Swamp, or our pattern blocks and tangrams. We have a few books that give us set shapes and patterns to try to make but the kids tend to enjoy just using the blocks to make their own designs.

We will see how Singapore does with my boys. Ian is starting Kindergarden this year and isn't reading or writing yet. He has had trouble writing his numbers but seems to understand the concepts. We did the Singapore Earlybird 1A and 1B and he did great with it. It seemed almost too easy for him but he enjoyed having math to do like his older sister. I was going to order the 2A and 2B books but after getting out Sophie's first grade book to look through I thought he could probably jump into that rather than the Kindergarden stuff. We did the first few lessons but soon figured out he needed to learn to read and write better before moving ahead. So we have put math for him on the back burner and have focused more on phonics and writing. It wasn't that the math concepts were beyond him but he just didn't have the writing skills to do what the workbook was asking of him. The Earlybird math books were mostly just circle this and x out that. In the new first grade book we got him they were expecting him to write his numbers and he needed me to sit there with him and read every problem to him. We will give it another go in a few months. His reading and writing are improving.

So for now we will continue with Singapore Math. We like it and it fills our needs. Math is one of the subjects I don't feel like I have to worry too much about. We do it everyday in one form or another and all the kids seem to be progressing. What more can we ask for.


Summer said...

Thanks for the great info. That was really helpful for me. I appreciate it.

Michal said...

i wonder sometimes if saxon math is the right fit for my kids. they do resist math, especially kimball. but the curriculum is so user friendly for me. i wonder how difficult it would be to switch over to a new curriculum after years of using saxon.

Alycia in Va. said...

I'm glad you found something that works well. We're also singapore fans and about to start 1a/1b now.